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Defending champion Cal, sans four senior starters from a year ago, was picked seventh today in the Pac-10 Conference annual basketball media poll.
Washington secured 33 of 35 first-place ballots and easily earned the No. 1 spot. Arizona edged UCLA for the runnerup spot. Stanford is picked ninth. The Huskies should feel good about this — the media has correctly picked the Pac-10 regular-season champion three of the past four years and 14 times over the past 21 seasons.
“It’s flattering,” coach Lorenzo Romar said of UW’s spot atop the poll. “I like our team, but I don’t know if we’re ready to win a Pac-10 yet. We got a lot of work to do.”
Kansas freshman guard Josh Selby was academically cleared today by the NCAA, but still faces questions over his amateur status. Here’s the full story. Kansas visits Cal on Wednesday, Dec. 22.
Just the diehards on hand this evening at Haas Pavilion, as most folks stayed home to watch the Giants.
The 150 or so who did attend the Bears’ open practice didn’t see anything particularly profound — it was an inter-squad scrimmage.
“The key word,” coach Mike Montgomery said, “is patience.”
With this team, you won’t know the players without a scoreboard. And the one they provided Wednesday was no help, either, because the players were wearing practice jerseys whose numbers are not the same as their game jerseys will bear.
After Cal’s public practice Wednesday evening at Haas Pavilion — yes, I sacrificed watching the early innings of World Series Game 1 to attend practice — I visited for a few minutes with freshman guard Emerson Murray, who told a great tale.
Seems about three or four weeks ago, Murray stopped by the RSF gym for a Friday evening workout, only to be greeted by Cal legend Jason Kidd.
The two worked out together for more than three hours, Murray said, then chatted for a few minutes.
Murray — no relation to Kidd’s old Cal running mate Lamond Murray — said the first thing he did afterward was call his parents up in Canada.
“I told them what happened and they were probably more excited than I was,” Murray said. “It was more than I could ask for. I’m already in love with the school, and to have an opportunity to do something so special was mind-blowing.”
Max Zhang, one of the most popular Cal players in recent years, will not be back for his junior season.
The tallest player in Cal history at just over 7-feet-2, Zhang has signed with the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association.
“He signed, he’s done,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said after the team’s open practice Wednesday night. “We were getting unclear messages. It’s really unfortunate, but that’s water under the bridge. This is our team.”
Zhang, who was expected to miss the early season anyway because he is training wth the Chinese national team, averaged 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds a year ago. He started five games in 2009-10 and figured to be the Bears’ first big man off the bench this season.
Cal didn’t expect to have Zhang early this season anyway because he is home training with the Chinese national team. He played in the FIBA World Championships and awaits the Asian Games in China next month.
Word is Zhang was being courted by two Chinese teams, and finally signed with Shanghai, NBA star Yao Ming’s old team.
It’s a curious decision by Zhang, whose game remains undeveloped and could have benefited greatly from two more college seasons playing against American competition. He also leaves behind the potential for a Cal degree, which seemed a priority for such a bright young man.
Cal’s game at Washington State on Nov. 6 will begin at 1 p.m. and air on Comcast SportsNet California.
Oregon State is ranked 119th our of 120 FBS teams in total defense, but don’t let Jeff Tedford know that it means the Beavers’ defense is down this season.
“I don’t look at statistics. I look at how they’re going to play,” Cal’s coach said. “They play hard and they’re always real solid on defense. I don’t get caught up too much on statistics.”
Tedford today talked a little bit about his history with Oregon St. coach Mike Riley. Not only has Tedford been coaching against Riley for years, he actually played for Riley when Riley was the head coach at Winnipeg in the CFL and Tedford was a quarterback there.
“I have a lot of respect for Mike,” Tedford said. “He’s a good guy and a great coach.”
Tedford has said he’s a Giants fan, but he’s obviously a bit busy these days. He knew the Giants were in the World Series but was unaware the World Series started tonight.
“I assumed that’s why people weren’t at our game the other day, because the Giants were playing,” Tedford said. He must follow the team some because he knew Saturday’s Game 6 of the NLCS had been moved from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. local time.
Tedford said he couldn’t miss the fact that the Giants had moved on to the World Series because Saturday night, after the Bears beat Arizona State, he took some recruits out to dinner and the “restaurant went haywire” when the Giants polished off the Phillies.
“I knew something was up,” Tedford said.
The Bears are in the middle of Week 2 of practice and, predictably, there have been a few bumps in the road.
“Everyone is all over the map,” assistant coach Jay John said tonight. “We’ve practiced 10 times in 12 days and it’s a shock to a lot of young kids because we’re out there for three hours and it’s a lot. You’re throwing a lot at them and they’re not used to it.”
John said the coaching staff is neither surprised nor discouraged. The Bears are starting over without four departed senior starters, and with five freshmen on the roster.
“It’s not like it gets boring out there or drags or you’re wondering, `Are these guys ever going to get it?’ It’s just taking time and it will take time,” he said. “Any coach who’s been with a team with that much turnover . . . that’s what it’s going to be.
“We can’t speed it up. We can only teach it and reinforce and trust that over time smart kids with good intentions will figure it out.”
— MURRAY IS BACK: John said freshman guard Emerson Murray, who was sick and missed some early workouts, is trying to catch up.
“He’s one of the guys that’s all over the place right now. He missed out on a week,” John said. “It’s good to have him out there. He’s going to be a very good player. He’s an outstanding athlete, a competitive and committed kid, and he can shoot.
“He just doesn’t know where he’s going right now, which is to be expected.”